Hey everyone. Sorry for my lack of dance related posts last month. I had so many medical awareness posts that I just had to share because they were all very important for me to get out there during the awareness month for those conditions. But I'm back with another ballet post for you and it's all about something all dancers want, hyperextended knees.
Hyper-extended knees create a beautiful line and when a dancer stands in first position there is a space between her heels, or a heel gap. There are many advantages to having hyper-extended knees but unfortunately there are drawbacks to that as well.
For example, an advantage is your knee will always look straight if they are hyper-extended. A disadvantage is locking your knees out too often will lead to painful knee problems that could require you take a break from dancing.
One thing about hyper-extension is you can’t allow yourself to give into the hyper-extension, or letting your legs sink backwards. Not only can it strain the backs of your knees, but this “lazy” placement also renders multiple turns nearly impossible. People tell me I have a beautiful hyper-extension but I am always in search of my “straight” standing leg. I found it over time by strengthening the right muscles, but I also have to find it daily. For me, this process starts anew every morning at the barre with a simple rule: While standing in first position, the heels must touch.
Dancers who consistently allow their standing legs to bow backwards into full hyper-extension can loosen the knee joints to a dangerous degree. It’s not just flexible muscles, you have overstretched ligaments as well; and ligaments don’t tighten up again. You’ve lost that security in the joints that the ligaments used to provide. (Insider note: Before I learned how to strengthen my legs without loosing my hyper-extension I hurt both of my knees really badly because I always let my legs bow backwards in full hyper-extension. When my knee pain got really bad I was out of dance for three months and I had to do physical therapy once a week. Now days, whenever I’m standing I have to make sure that my knees are slightly bent, as to keep them from hyper-extending).
Another thing I’ve noticed, especially with myself, is dancers with hyper-extension have improper posture and have lots of weight on their heels, which will throw them off balance when doing multiple turns.
The two images below compare a dancer with hyper-extended knees to dancer who does not. The dancer with hyper-extended knees (Image I). has her pelvis tilted forward, her weight is backward (on her heels) and her ankles are plantar flexed.
The dancer who is not hyper-extended (Image II) has her pelvis in a neutral position, her body is more upright and her weight is more centered, and her ankles are more neutral.
Another problem is dancers with hyper-extended knees will cause a reduction in turnout. To put the knee in the position of hyper-extension the femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone) will rotate inwards to "lock" the knee. Since most dance styles work in either parallel or turned out positions (but not turned in), this is counter productive.
So how do you control/correct hyper-extended knees? A few tips are to talk to your instructor about your hyper-extension and ask them to remind you every time they see you in hyper-extension. Also try to make sure your weight is more centered. Since most dancers who have hyper-extension have their weight further back, putting your weight forward will keep you from hyper-extending. Having a hyper-extension also means that your leg will always look straight even when it’s not so always try to have a slight bend in your knees. That will also reduce the stress you put on your ligaments when you stand in full hyper-extension.
That about wraps up all the knowledge I have on hyper-extension. I hope you all enjoyed it and found it helpful and informative. If you did please don't forget to give this post a +1 on Google+, share it with all your dance friends and teachers who need to know about hyper-extension. I will see you all in December.
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